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Chapter 24


"Well, was it nice?" she asked, coming out to meet him with a
penitent and meek expression.

"Just as usual," he answered, seeing at a glance that she was in
One of her good moods. He was used by now to these transitions,
and he was particularly glad to see it today, as he was in a
specially good humor himself.

"What do I see? Come, that's good!" he said, pointing to the
boxes in the passage.

"Yes, we must go. I went out for a drive, and it was so fine I
longed to be in the country. There's nothing to keep you, is
there?"

"It's the one thing I desire. I'll be back directly, and we'll
talk it over; I only want to change my coat. Order some tea."

And he went into his room.

There was something mortifying in the way he had said "Come,
that's good," as one says to a child when it leaves off being
naughty, and still more mortifying was the contrast between her
penitent and his self-confident tone; and for one instant she
felt the lust of strife rising up in her again, but making an
effort she conquered it, and met Vronsky as good-humoredly as
before.

When he came in she told him, partly repeating phrases she had
prepared beforehand, how she had spent the day, and her plans for
going away.

"You know it came to me almost like an inspiration," she said.
"Why wait here for the divorce? Won't it be just the same in the
country? I can't wait any longer! I don't want to go on hoping,
I don't want to hear anything about the divorce. I have made up
my mind it shall not have any more influence on my life. Do you
agree?"

"Oh, yes!" he said, glancing uneasily at her excited face.

"What did you do? Who was there?" she said, after a pause.

Vronsky mentioned the names of the guests. "The dinner was
first rate, and the boat race, and it was all pleasant enough,
but in Moscow they can never do anything without something
ridicule. A lady of a sort appeared on the scene, teacher of
swimming to the Queen of Sweden, and gave us an exhibition of her
skill."

"How? did she swim?" asked Anna, frowning.

"In an absurd red costume de natation; she was old and hideous
too. So when shall we go?"

"What an absurd fancy! Why, did she swim in some special way,
then?" said Anna, not answering.

"There was absolutely nothing in it. That's just what I say, it
was awfully stupid. Well, then, when do you think of going?"

Anna shook her head as though trying to drive away some
unpleasant idea.

"When? Why, the sooner the better! By tomorrow we shan't be
ready. The day after tomorrow."

"Yes...oh, no, wait a minute! The day after to-morrow's Sunday,
I have to be at maman's," said Vronsky, embarrassed, because as
soon as he uttered his mother's name he was aware of her intent,
suspicious eyes. His embarrassment confirmed her suspicion. She
flushed hotly and drew away from him. It was now not the Queen
of Sweden's swimming-mistress who filled Anna's imagination, but
the young Princess Sorokina. She was staying in a village near
Moscow with Countess Vronskaya.

"Can't you go tomorrow?" she said.

"Well, no! The deeds and the money for the business I'm going
there for I can't get by tomorrow," he answered.

"If so, we won't go at all."

"But why so?"

"I shall not go later. Monday or never!"

"What for?" said Vronsky, as though in amazement. "Why, there's
no meaning in it!"

"There's no meaning in it to you, because you care nothing for
me. You don't care to understand my life. The one thing that I
cared for here was Hannah. You say it's affectation. Why, you
said yesterday that I don't love my daughter, that I love this
English girl, that it's unnatural. I should like to know what
life there is for me that could be natural!"

For an instant she had a clear vision of what she was doing, and
was horrified at how she had fallen away from her resolution.
But even though she knew it was her own ruin, she could not
restrain herself, could not keep herself from proving to him that
he was wrong, could not give way to him.

"I never said that; I said I did not sympathize with this sudden
passion."

"How is it, though you boast of your straightforwardness, you
don't tell the truth?"

"I never boast, and I never tell lies," he said slowly,
restraining his rising anger. "It's a great pity if you can't
respect..."

"Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should
be. And if you don't love me any more, it would be better and
more honest to say so."

"No, this is becoming unbearable!" cried Vronsky, getting up from
his chair; and stopping short, facing her, he said, speaking
deliberately: "What do you try my patience for?" looking as
though he might have said much more, but was restraining himself.
"It has limits."

"What do you mean by that?" she cried, looking with terror at the
undisguised hatred in his whole face, and especially in his
cruel, menacing eyes

"I mean to say..." he was beginning, but he checked himself. "I
must ask what it is you want of me?"

"What can I want? All I can want is that you should not desert
me, as you think of doing," she said, understanding all he had
not uttered. "But that I don't want; that's secondary. I want
love, and there is none. So then all is over."

She turned towards the door.

"Stop! sto--op!" said Vronsky, with no change in the gloomy lines
of his brows, though he held her by the hand. "What is it all
about? I said that we must put off going for three days, and on
that you told me I was lying, that I was not an honorable man."

"Yes, and I repeat that the man who reproaches me with having
sacrificed everything for me," she said, recalling the words of a
still earlier quarrel, "that he's worse than a dishonorable man--
he's a heartless man."

"Oh, there are limits to endurance!" he cried, and hastily let go
her hand.

"He hates me, that's clear," she thought, and in silence, without
looking round, she walked with faltering steps out of the room.
"He loves another woman, that's even clearer," she said to
herself as she went into her own room. "I want love, and there
is none. So, then, all is over." She repeated the words she had
said, "and it must be ended."

"But how?" she asked herself, and she sat down in a low chair
before the looking glass.

Thoughts of where she would go now, whether to the aunt who had
brought her up, to Dolly, or simply alone abroad, and of what he
was doing now alone in his study; whether this was the final
quarrel, or whether reconciliation were still possible; and of
what all her old friends at Petersburg would say of her now; and
of how Alexey Alexandrovitch would look at it, and many other
ideas of what would happen now after this rupture, came into her
head; but she did not give herself up to them with all her heart.
At the bottom of her heart was some obscure idea that alone
interested her, but she could not get clear sight of it.
Thinking once more of Alexey Alexandrovitch, she recalled the
time of her illness after her confinement, and the feeling which
never left her at that time. "Why didn't I die?" and the words
and the feeling of that time came back to her. And all at once
she knew what was in her soul. Yes, it was that idea which alone
solved all. "Yes, to die!... And the shame and disgrace of
Alexey Alexandrovitch and of Seryozha, and my awful shame, it
will all be saved by death. To die! and he will feel remorse;
will be sorry; will love me; he will suffer on my account." With
the trace of a smile of commiseration for herself she sat down in
the armchair, taking off and putting on the rings on her left
hand, vividly picturing from different sides his feelings after
her death.

Approaching footsteps--his steps--distracted her attention. As
though absorbed in the arrangement of her rings, she did not even
turn to him.

He went up to her, and taking her by the hand, said softly:

"Anna, we'll go the day after tomorrow, if you like. I agree
to everything."

She did not speak.

"What is it?" he urged.

"You know," she said, and at the same instant, unable to restrain
herself any longer, she burst into sobs.

"Cast me off!" she articulated between her sobs. "I'll go away
tomorrow...I'll do more. What am I? An immoral woman! A stone
round your neck. I don't want to make you wretched, I don't want
to! I'll set you free. You don't love me; you love someone
else!"

Vronsky besought her to be calm, and declared that there was no
trace of foundation for her jealousy; that he had never ceased,
and never would cease, to love her; that he loved her more than
ever.

"Anna, why distress yourself and me so?" he said to her, kissing
her hands. There was tenderness now in his face, and she fancied
she caught the sound of tears in his voice, and she felt them wet
on her hand. And instantly Anna's despairing jealousy changed to
a despairing passion of tenderness. She put her arms round him,
and covered with kisses his head, his neck, his hands.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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